Is WordPress a Web CMS?

March 4, 2010

Twitter has been alive with discussions about whether WordPress is a Web CMS thanks to Dirk Shaw’s comment.

WordPress has also been added to the CMSWatch’s Web Content Management Research Channel. Does that make it a Web CMS?

The problem with such a statement is that it is very subjective. Some people think it is and some don’t, neither are wrong, but can they both be right?

Most of our clients have a website (or two) running on WordPress which is typically designed, developed and supported by a local web Agency, such deployments are sometimes rushed in to meet a tight deadline as there is a bottleneck to migrate the site designs onto the client’s primary CMS. As such WordPress is very commonly used, but only as part of suite of products delivering the client’s online communications, however we rarely see clients running their main site on WordPress.

I have to agree with Tony Byrne that if you are using it as a CMS then it is a CMS. WordPress has rightly earned it’s place as the #1 Open Source CMS (in terms of popularity), and we shouldn’t take that away from it.

The Long Tail of CMS

February 11, 2010

The Long Tail proposition is that, thanks to the magic of Amazon & eBay, what used to be marginal is now commercial, at least in the realm of entertainment. What I’m proposing is that the Long Tail also applies to CMS systems.

First let’s start with a definition from Wikipedia :

A market with a high freedom of choice will create a certain degree of inequality by favouring the upper 20% of the items (“hits” or “head”) against the other 80% (“non-hits” or “long tail”). This is known as the Pareto principle or 80–20 rule.

The long tail graph
Above is an example of a power law graph showing popularity ranking. To the right is the long tail; to the left are the few that dominate. Notice that the volumes of both areas match.

Looking at the number of CMS products published by CMS Watch there is evidence that the Long Tail applies also to CMS systems. We’ve heard of most of the vendors on the CMS Watch list, they regulary come up on long lists, have large revenues from licenses or services, have large development community and clients bases, and they are most likely to the left of the diagram. We also come across others that are not on the list or those that have been developed by Agencies or an inhouse team, these systems are in the in the “long tail” with low volume sales, number of clients using their products and small development communities.

So some “proof” that there is a correlation between the entertainment industry and CMS systems. And if you need to select a CMS system, are you going for something that is the “top of the pops” or an obscure artist that nobody has heard of?

Related posts

A client with several years of CMS experience recently she pointed out that she thought that CMS products we were going through a revolution. I had to agree, over the last couple of years we have seen major changes in the CMS world. Some of the facets of the “revolution” include:

  • old CMS products we grew to love and hate have been acquired, all the large independent players (Vignette, Stellent, Interwoven) have now been acquired, opening the way for new entrants into the market
  • online communities are more important than vendor viability. Proprietary vendors now realising the importance of developing communities, encouring their products to be discussed openly online warts and all! This kind of information wasn’t readily available thanks to vendors wanting to control “the message”.
  • open source and SaaS are now being seriously considered alongside purchasing licenses for proprietary systems. Historically decisions about Open Source were made at the outset, rather than being largely irrelevant.
  • ease of use is king. You no longer have to go on several days of training to grapple with clunky interfaces in order to manage your content, some content management functions can be performed without any training at all!
  • You get more for less. Prices for licensed software have come down providing CMS buyers with more functionality that ever before for less.
  • Downloading and try software. Some vendors allow you to try their software for free, and not demand several days consultancy services to come in and install the system.
  • the rise of social media, means that products are fundamentally being rearchitected from where the content management is performed on the back end as well on the front end.

I’m sure there are more aspects to the revolution that I’ve missed that you will come up with. I ran the idea of a CMS revolution past Tony Byrne who partly agreed with me! So what are your thoughts, are we in a CMS revolution or is CMS software as bad as ever?

Content is NOT king

November 23, 2009

Chris Brogan makes an interesting statement …

Content is NOT king

I’ve been thinking along the same lines for the past couple of years.

CMS vendors and products put Content at the heart of the system, and couple of years ago that was the accepted way to think about the content on the web. Web content was “stuff” that you would publish, we concentrated on structure, workflow, layout & design etc. But we were not really concentrating on *who* was going to read it, if they were going to read it all. Web content for the most part was worthless (and still is!) and we continued to publish content that didn’t help our users find what they are looking for. Chris states that *YOU* are king, perhaps it is time we thought differently about content?!

User centered content?

We have all adopted User Centered Design approaches to designing the user experience, this is where design is based on the needs of the user. So where does content fit into all this ?

Like design, we need to think about user centered Content, which is written from a users’ perspective. We need to turn our perspective around so we’re empathising with the user and asking what they would ask, and in the language they would use. Website content frequently needs to be rewritten from “inside out” to an “outside in” view of the organisation, this frequently requires a 180 degress shift in our thinking.

Olalah puts it very well in a recent tweet.

Content strategy

What about the content on your site, is it written from a user’s perspective? What about the information architecture and website navigation? Have you stepped into the audiences’s shoes, does ‘I’ and ‘we’ mean your audience or you?

Other related posts
When content was King

During a CMS selection project someone said that he thought the CMS systems he had seen demonstrated appeared to be the same! The reasons for this were:

  • They performed the same functions e.g. content publishing, versioning, workflow, searching etc.
  • They used similar ter`minology to refer to the products e.g. Content Server, Deliver server, modules etc.
  • The vendors presentations were performed in much the same way, e.g. complany profile, client list, product demos

I agree, that CMS demos can be a bit of  a blur especially when you have a few on the same day! Most clients want to focus on content, usability, and their audiences, and they do not want a CMS selection project to be about “technology”. CMS selection teams should consist of staff from different departments and skillsets e.g. IT, finance, Marketing, Press and Communication, and it is easy for them to become overwhelmed with the amount of information they need to make sense of.

With an estimated 4000 CMS systems in the world there is a vast amount of choice out there. CMSWatch covers around 40 products as part of their WCM report, so the evidence suggests that they are not the same! Even on a shortlist of 2 vendors they usually differ in their :

  • strengths and weaknesses
  • licenses models,
  • costs (and discounts),
  • implementation partners,
  • customers,
  • sizes and types of projects,
  • architecture etc.

So next time anyone in your team says “but they are all the same!” whack them over the head with this post!

See Also

5 Biggest Mistakes in CMS Selection

During a recent recent CMS vendor selection exericise I took a step back and realised how much time and effort was being spent on getting a firm price on the cost of each CMS product. CMS licensing is complicated as it depends on so many variables e.g. number of users, sites, servers, cpu’s, environments etc.  CMSWire posted on twitter


To help me write this article I enlisted the help of the folks on twitter, so why is CMS licensing so complicated?

Twitter feedback

Jon Marks (@mcBoof)  has written an excellent article titled When CMS Licensing Shafts Architecture , where comprises have to be made to the CMS solution architecture due to how products are licensed. Jon’s article states that a CMS may be licensed :

  • A per site or domain cost – the vendor should clarify about what constitutes a “site”
  • A per machine / CPU cost – some vendors which will charge extra for each server a particular product is deployed.
  • A cost for each named CMS user or editor or a concurrent user limit .
  • A cost depending on the environment e.g. development, test, staging, production and disaster recovery.

Useful replies from @scrump & @proops below :


One size does not fit all


twitter post regarding Modules and maintenance



When buying a CMS what are you buying ?

To try to answer why it is complicated let’s look at what you are actually purchasing :

Product Description
Core product This is usually the CMS server. As above the price of the core product will depend on the number of sites, users, servers etc.You will want to ensure that as many of your requirements as possible are covered in the core product.If you need additional functions then you will need to look at the availble modules.
Modules Any number of modules may be required to meet your requirements, this is an area where you could very quickly blow your budget! Possible modules include: Personalisation, dynamic delivery, social media tools, digital asset management, e-commerce catalogues, integration with third party products like Sharepoint, CRM systems etc.Modules may be licensed similarly to the core product and will attract additional costs on for each environment as well as ongoing support.
Databases & Application servers This will need to include licenses for Oracle/SQL Server database and applications servers etc.
Hardware Architecture You have to factor in the architecture as the number of Servers & CPU’s may affect the final price.It can be difficult to establish the architecture at the outset as with a dynamic CMS it depends on how the CMS has been implemented and how it will scale. Usually a sizing exercise is required which looks at the traffic levels now and into the future before a recommended architecture can be arrived at
Non production Environment licenses Non production environments also attract a cost though this is usually at a fraction of the full price. These could include Test, development and disaster recovery environments.
Maintenance & Support This is an annual subscription cost which is usually around 18-20% of the list price, and not 20% of the discounted price you may have managed to negotiate!

In summary :

Buying a CMS is fairly complicated as it involves buying software as well the hardware, hosting and support. Having a complex model may be necessary because:

  • One size doesn’t fit all. Why should you pay for functions that you will never use? You will not have the same numbers of users or sites as the next client.
  • Modules provide the flexibility of including additional functionality at a later time. This allows clients with a lower initial cost to get started. However modules can significantly increase the CMS license cost as they may also be licensed by site and users, there is also the additional support & environments costs to be considered.

What I would like to see is:

  • Openess and transparency in pricing. A fixed price list, with same prices for all customers. I regularly see quotes provided to more than one client at the same time, and know what is each
  • Simplified pricing. As above a standard price list so that clients know how much each and module costs, and what would happen if they changed X. We all know the price of an 60 GB Ipod classic.
  • A definition of what is a site. Clients may need to implement microsites for marketing campaigns under specific domains, are these sites? Even if they are shortlived ? What about subdomains?
  • Serious thought given to CMS scalability and performance as part of CMS selection & licensing, how will the architecture scale to cater for additional content and site visitors? Architectural changes further down the line could impact on the licensing e.g. additional servers and CPU’s usually mean additional license costs.

What I would welcome the end of :

  • Highly inflated “optimistic” list prices which are then heavily discounted.
  • Pricing by
    • CPU core, dual core are now more expensive the quad core.
    • Registered public user
    • CPU Megahertz (I think this practice may be dead, but is related to CPU cores).
    • Content Editor, concurrent editors make more sense.
  • Additional costs for commodity functions such as blogs, forums, surveys, polls, accessibility checking, link checking etc. Clients expect do not pay extra for these functions.

What has your experience been when pricing CMS systems, has it been straightforward or are you having to go back to the vendor every time a change is needed?